High-net-worth individuals and families looking for a cost-effective European domicile for their assets quickly find that Malta satisfies all the criteria for a safe and practical wealth management centre.

Catering for the most diverse personal and business needs, from succession planning to investment advisory to luxury asset management, Maltese service providers have a proven track record in structuring customised solutions for all levels of wealth, and are also increasingly being turned to by family offices and wealth managers abroad as outsourced partners for back-office services.

The most popular investment vehicle is the Professional Investor Fund, while those looking to safeguard their assets, whether stocks, bonds, art, heirlooms, real estate, or anything else, may be more interested in Malta’s trusts and foundations.

Some asset management companies have even launched fund platforms open exclusively to family offices and other wealth management providers as an efficient route to enter the market, while the synergies afforded by Malta’s position as a hub of financial services and emerging technologies can be exploited to the full. The multitude of possibilities on offer allow Malta to remain a go-to jurisdiction for those seeking tailor-made arrangements for the management of their wealth.

Malta is one of few states to offer both trusts and foundations, which are desirable for many reasons. They can be used to manage risk or as a ward against the impacts of political instability, as well as of course for succession and estate planning, and to minimise tax exposure. The structures may also be used for the securitisation of assets, corporate financing, to shield assets from creditors’ claims, and to hold real estate, not to mention charity.

Trusts and foundations broadly offer the same features, with a few important differences. The framework allows for a high degree of pliability, with private trust companies and complex configurations involving multiple structures also possible, while trusts can also be converted to a foundation, and vice-versa.

As with any wealth and estate planning, the starting point is to understand what the rules are, and then establish how you can use them to your benefit. Here is what you need to know about the differences between the two, although it is important to bear in mind that flexibility is the real name of the game, with much depending on the original terms included.

The bottom line, however, is that Maltese foundations are typically suited to a greater variety of goals and purposes.

Trusts

  • No legal personality.
  • No registration required (no fees).
  • Settlor may also be a beneficiary.
  • Settlor renounces ownership and control of assets held in trust.
  • Assets held and managed by trustee, ring-fenced from their personal property.
  • Trustee must act in accordance with terms of the trust.
  • Terms may only be amended if the original terms provide for it.
  • Property may only be added in line with the terms of the trust.
  • Administrator is only bound to divulge information about the trust to the settlor as per the terms of the trust.
  • Trusts may be regulated by the jurisdiction of the settlor’s choice, and foreign trusts are fully recognised.
  • Tax-transparent for non-residents.

Foundations

  • A juridical person with separate legal personality.
  • Registered with the Malta Business Registry (fees vary from €350 to €1,747).
  • Administration controls but does not hold foundation property.
  • Founder retains a level of control over the foundation’s administration.
  • Founder may amend foundation deed and add or remove beneficiaries.
  • Founder may be the administrator as well as a beneficiary.
  • Endowments may be added to a foundation at any time.
  • Founder retains full rights to information about the foundation’s performance.
  • Can be set up for the fulfilment of a particular purpose or for the benefit of specified persons.
  • Cannot be established to carry on commercial activities, but can:
    • Hold commercial property or shareholding, franchises, trademarks, ships, and other assets.
    • Be used as a collective investment vehicle or for securitisation transactions.
  • Treated like a company for tax purposes and therefore subject to tax on worldwide income, unless opting to be taxed under trust rules (therefore becoming tax-transparent)

Luxury Assets and Residency Options

Another element of Malta’s wealth management offering is its highly competitive framework for the registration of ships, such as superyachts, and aircraft. Its location as a strategic port of call, extensive VAT incentives, and excellent marina and airport infrastructure make it an attractive holding jurisdiction for such assets.

High-net-worth individuals also find that there are considerable benefits to becoming part of Malta’s growing cosmopolitan community, with several routes available to those wishing to make the country their home away from home.

This feature was first carried in the Malta Invest 2023 edition. Malta Invest is the first-ever comprehensive international investment guide focusing on Malta as a destination. It is produced by Content House Group.

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